There's a question that bothers me a lot. I have struggled with it for years. It's about sufficiency. It's about what I think is enough for my life to be satisfying, for me to say I have lived a life that has meant something. What's enough?
It's not as easy a question as I once thought. At one time, I would have answered that if I could only know God, to be in his presence and enjoy him, it would be enough. Nothing else would matter. After all, what more could I ask after that?
Did you ever see the movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"? It's a French film - I watch with English subtitles - and it's a true story. It's also perhaps the most deeply moving story I have ever seen. I came away with some very disturbing questions, and I have talked with a number of others who reported the same response.
I won't ruin the story for you - I hope you will watch it - but I will say it raises these questions: What is it to be truly human? What is a life worth living? What is success?
Some time ago, I did a little exercise, listing the lies I have been told - even by myself - the regrets I have, and the fears I have. I won't go into gory details here, but I'm generally not a fearful person. There isn't much that really deeply frightens me. But I was surprised when I came up with one thing: sameness.
I am afraid that what is now will always be. I'm afraid that the life I live now - very frustrating and unsatisfying - will never change. There is much that I want to do before I die. I am not happy with what I have accomplished, and though God has graciously used me in some small ways, I am not satisfied. Too little to show for having lived.
I notice that my dissatisfaction and fear centers on actions: What I have done or want to do. It isn't about who I am.
So here's the question again: If I could do nothing more for the rest of my life, if the life I have now was to be mine for the remainder of my days, would it be enough?
Some years back, I would have said, "Yes, of course." But then I was doing things that I found fulfilling: teaching, dealing with problems, making things happen. It's easy to be positive when things are going your way in at least some major part of your life. It's like the country preacher used to ask: "You got the victory, Brother, or are things just going your way?"
Now, things are not going my way, at least in any way that I recognize. What would my answer be now?
I am hesitant to say it publicly, but I long to be doing something that matters. God has given me gifts, talents, a fair measure of education, a lot of experience, and some quality mentoring. And I want to use those things in the service of the kingdom. I don't want to sit around, waiting to grow older and ultimately die.
So where does that leave me? Is it enough to know God? Or do I want or need more? Not so easy to answer. But here's what I think about it. At least, this week.
If I am able to use the gifts God has given me, I am responsible to do that. It's unthinkable that I sit on the sidelines, watching the world go by, doing or caring little, if I am able to do otherwise. However, if - as in the movie I mentioned - I am prevented from doing any of those things I love, then I can do one of two things. I can be bitter and angry towards God and others, or I can use the time I have to my best advantage, and draw closer to God. I can never be close enough.
It's a difficult question. How would you answer it? What does your life say about your spoken decision? Are your song and your dance both to the same tune? The struggle continues.